Black entrepreneurs

Bafana Mapela says entrepreneurship requires strategies to be implemented

Bafana Mapela is co-founder of Black Entrepreneurs

The introduction of BEE has seen a huge growth in SMEs in South Africa in the past 10 years. In fact, research shows that 70% of SME companies are now black-owned.

However, due to the country’s unfortunate history and a vast lack of skills and resources among the previously disadvantaged, many of these small businesses have found themselves facing many challenges including invisibility and financial strain.

Bafana Mapela, co-founder of Black Entrepreneurs, a business consulting firm, says entrepreneurship is a process that requires strategies to be formulated and successfully implemented for it to work.

Bafana Mapela, co-founder of Black Entrepreneurs, a business consulting firm, says entrepreneurship is a process that requires strategies to be formulated and successfully implemented for it to work.

Here he speaks to Donald Makhafola about what needs to be done to promote entrepreneurship.

What advice could you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?

My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to focus on “that” business idea. Passion and drive will definitely bear results. Hard work and dedication are definite ingredients for success.

Additionally, entrepreneurs must fully make use of the government initiatives and programmes available to them, such as the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), and the Independent Development Trust (IDT).

These programmes are designed to assist them. Entrepreneurs should believe in their ideas; no one will buy into an idea if they don’t sell it to the market. Entrepreneurs should do proper market research, business planning, benchmark and do a personal SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis before going into business.

If you can dream it, you can achieve it – Walt Disney. Many of life's failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.

In your opinion, what is a major challenge to entrepreneurs getting assistance from financial institutions?

I think the main problem is the funding model and the qualification criteria used. Many viable and feasible projects get declined on the basis of failing ITC checks from the credit bureaus. And minor issues around the format of a business plan, and in most cases funding institutions require start-up entrepreneurs to already be in possession of preliminary contracts or have access to the market.

As much as I believe there are risks that financial institutions are trying to manage with regard to the loan repayment, I believe funding institutions, in particular, government institutions should rather develop strategies and mechanisms, which will monitor the repayment of funds lent to entrepreneurs.

It seems these businesses are doomed to fail before they have even started operating, how can it be rectified?

The success of any business starts with the drive and passion of the owner. I believe proper planning, resources, access to market, vision and drive are the key success factors of any business.

I think our country is still at a stage where the idea of entrepreneurship is still run on a trial and error basis and this on its own has an impact on the failures of many small businesses/entrepreneurs.

I also think that entrepreneurs should also take personal development seriously; most entrepreneurs don’t understand the important basics of compiling a business plan. A business plan should not only be compiled to source funding, a business plan should be a blue print of how the company will operate.

It should be used as a guide for running the business, hence the reason it should be reviewed time and again to ensure that the business is implemented or taking the direction it was planned to.

Which country do you think can be a good example that South Africa could learn from?

China can be viewed as the engine of the world economy today. This didn’t happen overnight. Many efforts were put into planning and developing strategies on how to turn their economy around. 

Our country has potential and advantages for doing even better. As a developing country we have developed countries to learn from. We should benchmark, learn from other countries experiences, and assess our own strengths and weaknesses.

We need to explore business opportunities that exist in our country from all sectors and identify strategies that will ensure that our Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) can take part and benefit from such opportunities.

Do you think big corporates and institutions, such as government agencies, are doing enough to support and develop small businesses?

I do, but I believe a lot still needs to be done. Our development agencies should not operate in isolation. There’s a need to have a common vision for all funding institutions. Collaboration with each other should be forged where necessary.

Our funding institutions should be easily accessible and a lot of effort needs to be made in improving turnaround times. A lot of good initiatives and programmes are developed, however, only limited groups/individuals benefit from them.

How are you at Black Entrepreneurs working to assist SMMEs?

Black Entrepreneurs exists to assist companies to successfully start and run their businesses. We provide start-up assistance which includes business planning, conceptualising and refining of a business ideas, development of business and marketing strategies and we also provide mentoring and continuous support services through our SME consulting division.

Most of the emerging entrepreneurs blame the red tape and over regulation in the labour force as the stumbling block for the growth of their businesses. What is your opinion?

Organisations should scan and evaluate the macro environmental forces, made up of political and social conditions in the country, prior to starting a new business. 

How can small businesses be innovative in their marketing strategies to continuously remain profitable and relevant in the market?

Small businesses need to take new ideas and actually implement them in the market place. Establishing joint ventures and alliances with other small businesses that have expertise and access to other resources will be relevant to the environmental forces.

As Black Entrepreneurs, what do you think can be a solution for all challenges faced by SMMEs in the country and especially black emerging entrepreneurs?

The government should assist SMMEs to also contribute to the economic development by facilitating the reallocation of resources from less to more productive uses and bring new technologies, open new markets, processes and ideas and communicate new knowledge. 

Can you please tell me more about Black Entrepreneurs and its roles as a business consulting firm?

Black Entrepreneurs is a company that was formed in 2002 to promote collaboration and partnership between black-owned companies. Seeing that we had a lot to offer, the company diversified its services to offer business consulting and support services which entail: pre-start up service, business planning, business analysis, strategy development and continuous business performance management tools and mechanisms.

The company has a pool of professionals, each specialising in areas of strategy development, business processes, organisational development and business process management. We assist companies to get their business off the ground, by providing mentoring and performance management support.

Do you think South Africa is doing enough to promote and support emerging entrepreneurs?

Yes, as a country we are trying, but a lot still needs to be done. Like I said, entrepreneurship as an economic “booster” is a foreign idea in our country; therefore, it should be viewed as a process rather than a solution when implemented. Good programmes are initiated to support emerging entrepreneurs; however, these programmes should be well monitored and evaluated in order for them to bear results. 

How can government empower small traders to ensure that they create jobs, sustain their businesses and participate in the mainstream economy?

Government can empower them with capital and business skills as well as helping the monitor of their businesses and giving them technical support. A portion of the government business and projects should be allocated to SMMEs. Payments to SMMEs should not be delayed as this also plays a role in the failures of SMMEs. 

How do you think the migration of retail businesses to townships affect smaller traders such as spaza shops, taverns and other informal businesses?

The steep competition from these businesses (many of whom own a string of the retail stores), which are well resourced in comparison to the typical township entrepreneur, has evidently bankrupted local spaza shops and informal businesses; forcing some of them to pursue alternative businesses strategies.

What can smaller businesses do to compete in the market, especially if the playing field is not level?

They can compete by providing exceptional services. Going out of their way and treating people well, this brings great rewards to a small business which can be easily sustainable.

For more information, Bafana Mapela can be contacted at or visit